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Love, Service & Recovery

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Kacy Ritter, Community Outreach & Social Media Strategist

When we think of Valentine’s Day, visions of glittered cards and red roses often come to mind. Romantic love is the focal point of the holiday, an unwelcome experience for those in addiction who have isolated themselves from significant others and loved ones. Though few can debate the delight found in heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, there is far more to love than presents wrapped in red cellophane. True love transcends the bounds of romance and it doesn’t require that we be in a relationship to experience it.

This Valentine’s Day, we have the opportunity to do more than pine for a perfect token of adoration. The tenets of recovery teach us that love and service yield untold benefits when we dedicate our lives to others.

One of the greatest lessons we can learn from service is how to give freely without expectation of return. Even when we act from a stance of generosity, it is easy to unknowingly anticipate recognition for our compassion. In the 12 Step tradition, we may yearn for recognition of our work with sponsees. Within our families, we may expect that others validate our efforts with certain behavior. By practicing the fine art giving anonymously, we cultivate a sense of gratitude that flows from the inside out.

Simple anonymity frees us from the need for validation and allows humility – an important requirement of recovery – to blossom.

Many alcoholics have been absent, either physically or emotionally, from their family systems through the course of addiction. Time and time again, we hear parents, children and significant others express feeling forgotten amidst the turmoil of the addictive illness. While these concerns may be numerous, the addict can slowly repair past damage by showing their love through an unexpected contribution of time. Even if the “time offering” is minor—let’s say a quick call during a lunch break—the reaches of a short call can be monumental. Even when the act is not formally recognized, simply reaching out can be the centering boost a family member or friend needs. Acting with mindful awareness reminds us that it is our duty to act when intuitive thoughts urge us to connect with others.

At Origins, we challenge those facing addiction to shift their perspective, which has often been skewed by the haze of addiction.

Contrary to what many in active addiction believe, those actively pursuing recovery find that they are surrounded by kind and loving people who want the best for them. Clinical and spiritual interventions readily illuminate the reality they were once too blind to see. Through the amends process, the addict can take the time to honor others by consciously acknowledging self-centered actions. By purposefully recognizing past wrongs, we can free others from the burden of trying to “save us”. This experience also brings much needed clarity to future relationships.

Owning past wrongs may be difficult with friends and loved ones, but it is often more difficult to admit our offenses to someone we consider an enemy. Unfortunately, when we smart from an injustice, we continually surrender ourselves to resentment and fear. By owning our own mistakes and making the necessary amends, addicts move into a state of forgiveness that will ultimately feed a weary soul. Forgiveness begins when we release grudges and flourishes when we bestow mercy to others. Through fearless dedication to loving compassion, regardless of the circumstance, it is possible to experience true integrity.

This Valentine’s Day, spend some time reflecting on how to be helpful to those around you.

Ultimately, walking a path of service reveals our innate capacity to treat others with kindness and respect. Through this lens, we gain the ability to comprehend our own worth as “spiritual beings having a human experience.” To quote a common spiritual truth, “We gain self-esteem, by doing esteemable acts.” Through recovery, we are given the opportunity to love ourselves by pouring out our hearts in selfless service. Living by this simple principle allows us to truly connect with the power of grace and humility.